Photo gallery: Norwich United hit five to keep Wembley dream alive in FA Vase
- Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd
The remarkable season of Norwich United kicked up a gear in Kent on Tuesday night.
The Planters qualified for the fifth round of the FA Vase for the first time in the Blofield club's history with a 5-0 thumping of Ashford United.
The Southern Counties East Premier hosts had yet to play a competitive game in 2015 before this tie – and that lack of match sharpness was all too clear as Norwich eased to a 4-0 lead at half-time.
An early penalty from Matty Daniels was added to by Paul Cook and a brace from top scorer Matt Blake – taking his tally to 31 goals in 31 matches so far this season – before Daniels put the icing on the cake late on.
The comfortable win also made it 19 wins in the last 20 matches for Damian Hilton's side, as they continued on the road to Wembley.
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They will now travel to Berkshire to face Ascot United in the last-16 on Saturday, February 7.
It could have been very different though as Norwich right-back Jamie Speller was forced to head clear off his own line in the opening minute after goalkeeper David McAnally made a mess of collecting a loose ball and Darren Marsden was able to curl a shot at goal.
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However the Planters took the lead in the 10th minute, after Ashford keeper Joe Mant brought down winger Adam Hipperson when he was clean through. The goalkeeper was only booked but could easily have been sent off and Daniels gratefully thumped the penalty into the bottom-left corner for 1-0.
There was no looking back from that point on as Hilton's team went 2-0 up 10 minutes later, with Blake firing into the side-netting in between the two goals.
The lively Hipperson was again involved, poking through to striker Cook who stretched out to prod the ball under the keeper for 2-0.
Hipperson had a chance to get on the scoresheet himself in the 25th minute but headed a Ben Thompson cross from the right wide of the target.
Ashford then forced another goal-line clearance in the 35th minute, this time from Andrew Cusack, with Danny Lye heading a Gary Clarke corner goalwards.
But Norwich really turned the screw three minutes later when Blake chased through to get on the end of a long clearance from centre-back Greg Crane and fired past the hapless Mant in the Ashford goal.
Blake then demonstrated his considerable predatory talents four minutes later to put the gloss on a comfortable first-half thrashing of the hosts. A Hipperson corner was flapped at by the home keeper and Blake seized on the loose ball to poke home from close range and make the score 4-0 at half-time.
The hosts upped their game at the start of the second half but never really threatened to pull a goal back in a quieter second half, before Daniels completed the rout in the 80th minute. The midfielder charged through on goal and then managed to squeeze the ball around the on-rushing keeper and into the bottom-right corner.
The goal completed a performance befitting of a team pushing for the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division title and glory in three cup competitions and sets up what could be a hugely exciting second half of the season for the Planters.
Norwich Utd: McAnally; Speller, Eastaugh (C), Crane, Cusack; Thompson, Mason, Daniels (Shipley 84); Hipperson (Bennett 73); Blake (Durrant 70), Cook.
Goals: Daniels (10, 80), Cook (20), Blake (38, 42)
Ashford Utd: Mant, A Cuthbert, Kingwell, Lye, L Cuthbert (Irvine 46); Clarke (C), Whiting; Byrne (Smissen 73), Marsden (Scorer 56), Mickelborough; Zanone. Unused subs: Winfield, Finch.
Referee: David Spain